When you think of a “flagship” program, you probably think of a recognized brand with a lot of tradition. People may hate or love the “flagship,” but they almost always respect them.
Texas and Texas A&M are the two flagship programs in the state of Texas, traditionally, but both programs are undergoing some major issues as we head into the New Year. Texas’ issues might finally be sorting themselves out, but A&M’s appear to just be beginning.
Ever since the Mack Brown/DeLoss Dodds/Bill Powers regime ended, the Texas program has been a borderline disaster. Fans, boosters and alumni of the program have been embarrassed and somewhat ashamed at the actions that have taken place.
There can be a whole separate article on how Steve Patterson’s reign as AD at Texas began and ended, but we aren’t even touching that today.
Focusing strictly on football, Charlie Strong hasn’t been given the support that he’s needed from day one. Plain and simple. There are big issues behind the scenes that a casual fan can’t see, but they are becoming clearer every day.
The lack of production on the field is one thing, but when you can’t convince a coach from an in-state rival school (TCU’s Sonny Cumbie) to leave his gig to coach at the “flagship” program in Texas for more than twice his salary, it screams that something fishy is going on.
It all came to a head when Strong went to plan “B” for his offensive coordinator search. It appeared that Sterlin Gilbert was set to be the OC, and then something fell through that forced Strong, AD Mike Perrin and President Greg Fenves to fly to Tulsa in an attempt to clear the air. The fact that all three men had to be involved just shows how discombobulated the program really is.
Supposedly Gilbert did not sense and receive a vote of confidence for Strong, which is why he didn’t take the job initially. The severe lack of communication was evident. Yes, they eventually hired Gilbert, but they set an unprecedented standard of desperation that resonated on Twitter throughout the country. That should never happen at Texas.
Texas A&M has enjoyed the issues that their former rival has been going through, but it appears that they may be headed down a similar path soon.
Kevin Sumlin lost two five-star quarterbacks in a span of a week. Both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray transferred from the program for similar reasons. The main reason was that they did not trust Sumlin.
Most people assumed that whoever lost the starting job would transfer, but no one predicted that both would within the same week. That shows that there are some major issues in the locker room and behind the scenes.
Now A&M boosters are having a hard time trusting Sumlin, and there’s a chance that he could be fired if the Aggies don’t win their upcoming bowl game against Louisville. Talk about a fall from grace.
The most embarrassing part about the situation is the national attention that it’s receiving. Problems like this extend past just the current players. It also affects recruits. As we near the peak recruiting season, Sumlin is going to have to answer a lot of questions that he would rather not address.
So with all of these issues that two of the most respected programs in the state of Texas are having, can we really still consider them the “flagship” programs?
TCU and Baylor have performed better on the field over the past few seasons overall, and Houston is on its way up too. Each program has its upsides and its downfalls, but it almost seems like the administration and some coaches at Texas and Texas A&M don’t realize the magnitude of the programs they are trying to run.
What Texas and A&M are going through at the same time is rare to see. However, the issues are magnified because they are the “flagship” programs in the state.
Both programs will be fine over time, but the near future outlook doesn’t look very promising. It’s difficult to say anything good about either program right now, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the student athletes.
If the main problems were on the field and in the classroom, then we’d be talking about a different monster. But we are talking about trust at the highest levels, whether it is the players trusting the head coach or the head coach trusting the administration. Either way you look at it, it’s downright embarrassing for both programs to deal with and it could take some time to move forward and put it all behind them.